Real Madrid starting a new cycle with Santiago Solari
Background photo: Jaime de la Fuente, CC BY 2.0
Real Madrid are in a phase similar to 2008 when Barcelona rose up with their tiki-taka style and the Merengues needed to find a way to return to dominance. Julen Lopetegui 's departure proves the squad cannot continue as it did under Zinedine Zidane for the past two-and-a-half seasons. The Frenchman warned before leaving that the squad required an overhaul. They were past their peak and held together only by Zidane's will and Ronaldo's brilliance. With both gone, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez must build a new Galactico.
Developing young players is well and good. Promoting Santiago Solari, who is familiar with the La Fabrica youth set-up is an intelligent choice. That said, the youngsters will make mistakes. They need established players on the pitch to carry them through. Spending is the only way Los Blancos can keep pace with Barcelona, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.
Perez is caught between a rock and a hard place. He must exercises caution with regard to big signings as the Santiago Bernabeu expansion will gulp a large chunk of their revenue. The plan includes adding a shopping mall, a fully covered pitch that can be opened during matches and a host of other additions.
The Real Madrid honcho cannot allow that investment to reduce the senior team. The team needs fresh legs and this is where Solari’s work is well cut out. The 42-year-old manager faces a challenge to keep Real competitive.
He has started on a high, winning his first four games, scoring 15 goals and conceding just 2. This is the best start of any Real Madrid manager in over a decade. He might not be an elite coach but he definitely knows what he’s doing. Backing him financially is the best way to maintain the momentum his appointment brought.
As when Jose Mourinho took over in 2010, the club boasts a set of upcoming stars not quite ready to take over the world. The likes of Vinicious Jr and Marco Asensio still have years before they are fully developed. Gareth Bale, Luca Modric and Isco lead the charge is looking like a journey filled with uncertainty. They aren't enough to replace Ronaldo's goals. Karim Benzema scores in fits and burst with the lulls between overly long. Bringing in a player like Eden Hazard or Neymar will fast-track the rebuilding process at the club and will also aid Solari's work. The Chelsea star is having his best season under Maurizio Sarri.
One thing is certain. There is no player on their roster who can guarantee 40+ goals per year for the next three seasons. Beyond Ronaldo and Messi, the only player to do it for one season recently is Liverpool's Mo Salah. The goals aren't coming so quickly for the Pharaoh in his second go-round at Anfield. Europe's most consistent scorer during the past three seasons has been Harry Kane.
None of these players, not even Hazard who is in the final year of his deal, will be easy to pry away from their current clubs. Coping with this reality alone is a factor why Perez has to speed up his financial backing regardless of the stadium expansion which can be going on simultaneously. When supply is low, demand will be high. Perez has little choice.
Happily, a full overhaul isn't necessary. One or two well-chosen signings will serve.